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Our Newly Qualified Attorneys’ Top Tips for Preparing for the Bar Examination

4 November 2022

The ever-so-coveted title of an attorney-at-law (or just an “attorney”, as our friends like to endearingly call us) is a title protected by law and held solely by the members of the Finnish Bar Association. The only way to be accepted as a member is to complete the prestigious and awe-inspiring bar examination. Because we are all about spreading the joy of being an attorney, Hannes’s newly qualified attorneys wanted to share some tips on how to best prepare for this exam.

These days, the examination consists of three parts: the written exam, the ethical part, and the trial part, and the examination can be completed almost entirely online. The ethical and trial parts are excellent opportunities to learn from experienced attorneys and to freshen up your understanding of the ethical conduct required of an attorney (24/7!). On the other hand, the written exam can be — to be perfectly honest — quite a terrifying challenge. When prepping for the written exam, you must carefully study a significant number of scholarly writings, guidelines, and legal texts (written in a tiny font). But fear not — it is entirely doable if you follow our tips below. Please also check out the further instructions and information on practicalities from the website of the Finnish Bar Association.

  1. We recommend that you start studying for and take the examination as early as possible. You can take the examination right after you have graduated as a bachelor of laws. This way you can avoid any unnecessary panic caused by doing the examination only when you are about to meet the requirement of having worked for four years. On the other hand, completing the examination once you have a couple of years of work experience may help you to understand the practical significance of the examination material.
  2. The different parts of the bar examination can be completed in any desired order but, as recommended by the Examination Committee, taking the written exam before the ethical part may be a good idea. We feel that you get more out of the ethical part if you are familiar with some of the ethical guidelines when you are preparing for the written exam.
  3. As the three parts of the bar examination can nowadays be done almost entirely online, it is more flexible and smoother than ever to complete the bar examination. However, even though also the written exam is held online, we recommend that you prepare for it properly. Find the relevant materials in good time before the exam and familiarise yourself with the old exam as well (by the way, they are available online).
  4. There is quite a lot of material that needs to be studied for the written exam, so we recommend getting hold of the material and starting to study well in advance, i.e. several weeks before the exam. Making a reading plan is a good idea, if you (like most of us…) tend to be time optimists in these sorts of things.
  5. Sharpen your search skills: you are allowed to have the materials with you in the exam (remember to download them on your computer in advance!) so focus on understanding what each act mainly contains and look for the specific sections from the right act during the exam — the questions regarding law are detailed, and it would be pointless to try to remember all the information by heart (so no need to worry about the length of the Code of Judicial Procedure…). This allows you to optimise (or minimise, if you are in a hurry) the exam preparation time and to concentrate more on the literature. You might also want to consider how you can find all the information as fast as possible during the exam.
  6. The time during the written exam is very limited, and you will most likely find yourself in a hurry. It might be a good idea to plan ahead how much time you can spend on each question. The hardest part is then sticking to that schedule and moving on to the next question once your time is up even if you’re not be entirely happy with your answer.
  7. You should not aim to submit “perfect” answers, which may be difficult at least if you have significant work experience before taking the examination. If you try to prepare outstanding answers, you may end up in a situation where you do not have time to answer all the questions. Keep in mind that in this examination, “good enough” really is good enough.
  8. The duration of the written exam (currently) stands at 3.5 hours, so you may get hungry during the exam. It is a good idea to have some of your favourite snacks at reach.
  9. While some parts of the examination may not feel that useful for your daily work, studying such a large amount of legal texts broadens your general legal knowledge, and many parts of the examination material are highly relevant for attorneys working in different fields.
  10. We recommend taking advantage of the two full-day training sessions included in the trial part as those are valuable opportunities for gaining tools for real-life work of an attorney even if your current work is not directly related to trials. In the trial part, each small group has their own mentor sharing their knowledge and experience, and you can learn enormously by having an open-minded attitude towards the training sessions.

And finally — remember that it is not the end of the world if you do not pass the examination at the first try. You can always try again, and you are not the only person in the world (or in your firm) who has failed the examination even if it feels like it at the time.

Good luck with the examination!

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